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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Racist jokes may be worse than racist statements

Jane Austen’s Emma Woodhouse tells her father, “Mr. Knightley loves to find fault with me, you know—in a joke—it is all a joke.” Mr. Knightley isn’t joking, as he and Emma know; he presents his criticisms without a hint of jocularity. But if Emma persuades Mr. Woodhouse to believe Mr. Knightley is joking, he “would not suspect such a circumstance as her not being thought perfect by everyone.” A little over 200 years after Emma was published, the comedian Roseanne Barr defended a racist tweet about Valerie Jarrett, President Obama’s former adviser, in a further tweet, “It’s a joke—”.

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Explaining Freud’s concept of the uncanny

According to his friend and biographer Ernest Jones Sigmund Freud was fond regaling him with “strange or uncanny experiences with patients.” Freud had a “particular relish” for such stories. 2019 marks the centenary of the publication of Freud’s essay, “The ‘Uncanny.’” Although much has been written on the essay during that time, Freud’s concept of the uncanny is often not well understood.

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12 of the most important books for women in philosophy

To celebrate women’s enormous contributions to philosophy, here is a reading list of books that explore recent feminist philosophy and women philosophers. Despite their apparent invisibility in the field in the past, women have been practising philosophers for centuries.

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Is it right to use intuition as evidence?

Dr. Smith is a wartime medic. Five injured soldiers are in critical need of organ transplants: one needs a heart, two need kidneys, and two need lungs. A sixth soldier has come in complaining of a toothache. Reasoning that it’s better that five people should live than one, Smith knocks out the sixth soldier with […]

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What makes arrogant people so angry?

Arrogant people are often intolerant of questioning or criticism. They respond to genuine and even polite challenges with anger. They are bullies that attempt to humiliate and intimidate those who do not agree with, or explicitly defer to, their opinions. The arrogant feel superior to other people and arrogate for themselves special privileges. This sense of entitlement […]

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What can we learn from meme culture?

If you go on-line, the chances are that you have encountered memes. What exactly is a meme? Some people take memes to be simply images with added text. The artist Barbara Kruger is often cited as a pre-internet forerunner of this practice.

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Celebrating notable women in philosophy: Philippa Foot

This March, in honour of Women’s History Month, and in celebration of the achievements and contributions of women to the field of philosophy, the OUP philosophy team honours Philippa Foot (1920–2010) as its Philosopher of the Month. Philippa Foot is widely regarded as one of the most distinctive and influential moral philosophers of the twentieth-century.

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The ethics of the climate emergency

During the last few days of February we experienced the warmest Winter day since records began, with a high of 20.6 degrees (Celsius) at Trawscoed in mid-Wales. As if that was not enough, the record was broken again the next day with 21.2 degrees at Kew Gardens.

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Is there room for creative imagination in science?

Not just once, but repeatedly, I have heard something like “I just didn’t see in science any room for my own imagination or creativity,” from young students clearly able to succeed at any subject they set their minds to. It is a tragedy that so many people do not perceive science as a creative. Yet […]

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Philosopher of the Month: Plato [infographic]

This February, the OUP Philosophy team honours Plato (c. 427–347 BCE) as their Philosopher of the Month. Together with Socrates and Aristotle, Plato is recognized as one of the most influential figures of ancient Greek philosophy.

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Some value safety, others value risk

No one has ever crossed the Antarctic by themselves and without help from other people or engines. To me, this is very unsurprising and uninteresting. No one (outside of superhero movies) has ever shrunk themselves to the size of an ant, or turned back time by causing the earth to rotate backwards either. Big deal. […]

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Ice Cube and the philosophical foundations of community policing

The recent “First Step Act” is the most significant federal criminal justice reform in decades. Still, it is a modest first step. The law eases the sentences of some inmates in federal prison, but it will not impact the problem of mass incarceration significantly because it does not address the many inmates incarcerated in state and local facilities.

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Congratulations to Cyberwar

Oxford University Press has won the 2018 R. R. Hawkins Award, which is awarded by the Association of American Publishers to a single book every year to “recognize outstanding scholarly works in all disciplines of the arts and sciences.” 

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Are our fantasies immune from morality?

Immoral fantasies are not uncommon, nor are they necessarily unhealthy. Some are silly and unrealistic, though others can be genuinely disturbing. You might fantasize about kicking your boss in the shins, or having an affair with your best friend’s spouse, or planning the perfect murder.

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